Sidney Brown brings his weekly dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
The NHL-leading Chicago Blackhawks (24-7-5, 53 points) are currently setting a near-record pace when it comes to scoring goals. The recent outburst of scoring has fans, including myself, as excited for this season’s team as we’ve been all season, but a potential party crasher seems to be at the Hawks’ door and its not one anyone looks forward to seeing — injuries.
The Hawks have been toughing it out already this season with key role players missing time but Corey Crawford’s lower body injury, sustained last Sunday versus Florida, has welcomed the injury bug to the team’s important personnel.
Expected to be out two to three weeks, Crawford and the starting goaltender position is being picked up by rookie goalie Antti Raanta, who has played well since being called up from Rockford, scoring a 5-1-1 record with a 2.61 goals against average. But for the Hawks to stay the course in the Western Conference, the lines in front of Raanta will have to help out defensively and this has been an Achilles heel all season long.
Ranking 19th in the NHL in goals allowed per game (2.9), the Hawks have benefited from their stellar offense but they can’t start to take the scoring for granted. More chipping in will have to be done by everyone on defense or the team could be liable to take a dip at some point — this means clearing out pucks, blocking shots and staying out of the penalty box. The front office has become proactive as well, trading for goalie Jason Labarbera from Edmonton, who has since been sent down to Rockford.
With that move the question of what is to become of the also-injured Nikolai Khabibulin becomes relevant. I don’t know the answers, but if the Hawks are going to stay steady and eventually repeat as champions, Crawford must be healthy and able to play up to last year’s standard.
Meanwhile, the top-ranked offense in the league (3.7 goals per game) posted 20 goals this past week, including six versus Dallas last Tuesday and a mighty seven versus Philadelphia the following day. Going along with this hot scoring is the team’s power play contributing a total of five goals for the week, bringing that unit’s overall ranking to fifth in the NHL.
In his last five games, Patrick Sharp has been on fire, posting up five goals along with four assists, including his two-goal performance versus Dallas. Sharp’s partner in crime Patrick Kane has not disappointed either, posting a total of three goals and eight assists (11 points) in his last five, including a two-goal performance at Toronto in a loss Saturday.
Kane’s offensive outburst has placed him second to Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby in the NHL in overall scoring.
* To LA Kings forward and former Hawk Daniel Carcillo, who returned to Chicago Sunday. Although his time with the Hawks was filled with injuries, Carcillo will be remembered for scoring the game-winning goal against the Colorado Avalanche on March 6, 2013, which capped off the Hawks’ record 24 game point streak to start that season.
* Next, to former Hawk Keith Magnuson, who passed away 10 years ago on December 15, 2003. Nice job by Hawks TV voice Pat Foley to mention Magnuson’s career achievements and contributions off the ice during the broadcast versus the LA Kings Sunday on WGN. Magnuson’s No. 3 was retired at the United Center on Nov. 8, 2008 along with Hall Of Famer Pierre Pilote was retired.
Magnuson was also part a group of retired Hawks players who in 1987 started the Chicago Blackhawks Alumni Association, who’s objective is to give something back to Chicago and to the sport of hockey. Yearly, this organization awards three scholarships to high school hockey players. For more information visit blackhawkalumni.com.
Team Leaders: Goals — Patrick Kane (19); Assists — Duncan Keith (29); Points — Kane (44); Goals Against Average — Corey Crawford (2.47); Penalty Minutes — Brandon Bollig (59).
The Week Ahead (12/16-12/23)
Tuesday at Nashville Predators — 7 PM
Friday vs. Vancouver Canucks –7 PM Monday vs. New Jersey Devils — 7 PM
(All times Central)
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